Watching Jasper Dohrs skate in New York is like watching a video game character melt into the hectic pedestrian-packed scenery, sometimes with ease and sometimes with a sudden fall. Next to The Standard, East Village, a square-jawed Dohrs grinds on a small fence several times. At one point, he almost crashes into a large man barreling down the street. Dohrs, bronzed and ever-cool in a baggy t-shirt and pulled-up, tie-dyed Philip Huang socks, simply shrugs it off. The tall, lanky 22-year-old, who is half-Thai and half-American, and currently resides in Thailand, has never looked more at home in his old stomping grounds where he is visiting friends for a few days.
For Jasper Dohrs, Skating is About Rediscovering Cityscapes and Objects
At first, it appears that he is the typical skater with gnawed elbows and scabbed knees. But Dohrs has managed to set himself apart from the rough-and-tough, slacker-skater pack by carving out a career for himself abroad. The Seattle-native moved to Thailand three years ago and began skating professionally throughout Asia. His life there began during a gap year before college when he left the West Coast for Thailand to experience the culture and learn the language. He had initially planned to live with his grandmother, pursue acting, and save money. Instead, Dohrs spent his time skating and immersed himself in the local community. “I figured out a way to just sneak into the Asian skate scene and I fell in love with it,” he says. “Because I spoke English, I had a way to meet these people that I wouldn't otherwise get a chance to meet just being in Seattle.” When he returned to the United States, he attended Parsons School of Design where he studied product design but dropped out the first year after he was contacted by a connection at New Balance Asia. “He told me, ‘If you move back to Thailand, I can get you paid skating full time.’ It sounded like the coolest thing ever,” says Dohrs.
Since then, Dohrs has been skating consistently and traveling throughout Asia. He has also ventured outside of the skating realm and has continued acting, playing the challenging role of a gay skater in a Thai television series or cruising on a wok bowl for a commercial. Another point to note: Dohrs’s visual point of view is ethereal. His photographs on his Instagram account are transfixing and idyllic, capturing the everyday but unnoticed winks of Thai culture as well as his travels: an old man with a half-shaved head doing push-ups while cross-legged or young, fresh-faced soldiers in Sichuan, China. Even a gray New Balance sneaker held against the backdrop of waves feels otherworldly through his lens. Dohrs’s knack for visuals also translates into his designs, which includes a capsule collection of crisp polo shirts backed by the Thai label Preduce Skateboards. “The climate in Thailand is super hot. I normally have to change in and out of two or three shirts a day. I get tired of always having a backpack of clothes on me. I thought, ‘why don't we design a clothing line where ideally you could go out and wear it all day skating and sweat through it.’ It would dry quickly, still smell good, and maybe you could go get a bite to eat with your friends,” he says. “Hopefully, you could feel handsome in it as well.”
While Dohrs is still exploring a world outside of skateboarding, his life orbits around the sport and its culture plays into how he observes his daily environment. “Any skateboarder would say that you have constant ‘skate goggles.’ You're always scanning the environment, even when you're out without a skateboard. If you're in a car, you're constantly looking at satisfying-looking things to grind,” says Dohrs. “I'll get a feeling off of just looking at a cool thing to skate without necessarily being able to skate it. It's about spending time in the city, observing the different objects that are normal for pedestrians. The focus on skateboarding is about making fun of things that are not made to be that way.”
For his future plans, Dohrs is looking to combine his love for design and skating on a larger scale. His next idea? Dohrs would design an obstacle course using coral and asphalt on a small island next to The Standard’s soon-to-open location in the Maldives. “It would be nice to make something to replicate concrete waves using a pump track. We’d paint the pump track like waves and people would be surrounded by this crystal blue water,” says Dohrs. “Ideally, it would be an obstacle course that can be enjoyed by all different age groups whether they dabble in skateboarding, ride a scooter, roller blade, or simply for kids to run on it.” Maybe there will be a half-pipe, too. Just don’t call it a pipe dream.